Sixty damned years in Equestria... and no point in returning to Earth even if you could. Your friends and family must all be dead, or too old to recognize your face. You'd be a fossil, left behind by your generation, and the culture shock would be almost greater than... than when you came here. The cool green hills of Earth have faded in your mind, replaced by the bright child-safe hills of Equestria, and your Earthly memories are as faded and unreal as a celluloid film.
You don't feel as if you could possibly be this old, that this wrinkled, pain-checked body you bear could really be your own. You stand in the rain before a stone pillar and stare at the ground, striving to recall something of your early life... something that made you happy.
You're still trying when you hear soft hoofsteps on the muddy ground behind you.
Twilight gently nuzzles your shoulder in greeting. Her muzzle and mane are streaked with silver, and her gait is almost as slow as yours. You place a trembling, arthritic and friendly arm around her neck at the withers. The two of you stand still for a while, until Twilight breaks the silence.
"The years never get easier to bear, do they?"
"No. It doesn't much matter whether you have two or four legs to carry them."
You look at the rain splashing around your feet.
"Twilight... I wish I knew why I was here. Not just in Equestria. Why I existed—exist at all."
"That's a fair question, shared by many. Do you have any feelings about it?"
"I... I feel distant from everything, unrooted. Life slipped by and left me behind. Perhaps it's just me, because I don't remember feeling very certain about things before I came here. But I seem to have spent my whole life just marking time and waiting for something to happen, and it never did.
"But in a sense, I think I didn't want anything to happen. I didn't want to belong..." You trail off into silence.
She picks up the thread."...Because you didn't want to give up your hope of returning to Earth. If you formed too many attachments here, it might have prevented your return... Do I guess correctly?"
You frown. "There are Earth legends about a magical race called the Faerie, and supposedly a mortal who eats of their food can never return to the normal world. I can't say that I believed that, but—"
Twilight nods. "Some truths run deeper than the facts. I understand."
She inhales deeply, taking in the scent of the wet air, the trees, the sodden ground, all of which tell a deeper story to her than you will ever perceive. "Perhaps the problem is not that your life had no purpose. Perhaps it did, and you just chose not to live for that purpose. And now you're facing the consequences of your decision."
"Easy for you to say. You're something important to this universe. You personify the most vital of its Elements. Me... I'm just an accident. I wasn't supposed to be here."
Twilight studies the rain, watching uncountable drops fall to be absorbed by the ground, seemingly to no effect at all. The ground is ever thirsty, and there is always more rain.
"Tell me. If you had a chance to go back and do things again, might you... choose differently?"
You meet her deep violet eyes in a long gaze. "Regarding her, you mean? I don't think I could."
"Would it have hurt so much if you had? Everything the two of you did in your lives brought you to this point, here and now. Does it matter so much now in what way you got here?"
You think back on your life in Equestria, the years of self-imposed solitude. "It does...or at least it did. If the destination is all the same, the journey must be what matters."
"That's one way to look at it." Twilight gazes at the ground for a while, pensive, but not ruminative. "I don't know what force brought you here, but I do think you came into our lives for a reason. She always needed something she could care about more than herself. It was her whole reason for being. She was the Element of Kindness, after all."
"She wasn't very kind to me, was she?"
"We who are—or were—the Elements... we couldn't always live up to it. Flesh is imperfect. We each tried the best we could, and we all had our failings.
"But how she saw you... You were something outside the rules. With other ponies, she was clam-silent, always polite, but reserved. You came from outside the social structure in which she was raised. She felt more comfortable around you, a carnivorous alien, than she ever could around her own kind. Like her animals, you had no prejudgements of her, but unlike them, you were sapient and thus had potential to return her feelings on levels an animal could never reach."
Twilight's cheeks are wet with more than rain. She looks up at you.
"Perhaps on the face of it she wasn't very kind to you... but she would have given you every scrap of love she had. And I know that's a heavy responsibility, and not to be taken on lightly, so I can't blame you for choosing otherwise. You didn't... you didn't want to be attached here. You can't turn feelings on and off like a faucet. Yours couldn't be turned on, and hers couldn't be turned off. That wasn't your fault, and it wasn't hers..."
Your hands are trembling with more than age. Anger fills your heart and lends steel and fire to your voice.
"So whose fault is it, then? My whole life was yanked away from me, ruined, just so I could be some mannequin or Yahoo dress up doll for her fantasies? Did anyone think of asking me first? And when was anyone ever going to tell me this? And what in fuck's name is the point of telling me now, when it's too late?"
Twilight stands her ground. "It's really not anything we did. The Diarchs didn't order it to happen. But if it hadn't happened, and you had lived out a purposeless life on Earth, and not accomplished anything, wouldn't you also be asking now whose fault it was that you never even got a chance?
"None of us get asked or told anything in advance, and it isn't fair, but we can't help it. I always liked that line from the story you told me with the swift white horse in it... 'All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'
"You made your decision, and so did she.
"What's happiness worth in the end? It doesn't last, you can't save it, it's something you try to pack into your life if you're able. Some have more of a chance to do this than others, but whatever you choose, everyone winds up the same way. The only thing that can possibly matter is that you try to live as well as you can."
Twilight looks at you with all the dignity of a princess, but also all the respect due to an equal.
"And you are not a Yahoo, and we never once thought of you that way. Yahoos and animals only live life once. It is given to us, to you and me, to be able to see the world as it might be and not as it is, and thus our lives have extra dimension. If anything can change the way things are, it will have its start in this ability of ours."
You nod. "That's true enough. We who are sapient, who can see what might be and what might have been, we get to live life over and over in all sort of ways. And many of them hurt."
Twilight smiles. "But some of them are nice. What you can't live, you can at least imagine. And if how we live or what we imagine brings the world closer to a distant potential, one's life has not been wasted, has it?"
"So, still, why have you told me all this now? What can I do at this point?" A glimmer of hope strikes you. "What you said before... about doing it over... was that an offer, by any chance...?"
Twilight sighs. "We who practice magic must always be careful with our speech. I am sorry, I wish that I could, but not even the Diarchs can change time, or redo what has been done, for themselves or for anyone.
"But I am suggesting that with the time you have left to you, you can write it down—what might have been, what you wanted it to be. And this for the same reason that we write down historical events; so that the worst mistakes may not be repeated, and the best ideals can be someday made into reality."
"I... I have no clue of how to begin writing such a thing."
"If you had one thing to say to your younger self, what would it be?"
"I... don't know, I would have to think..."
"Well, think of it, then start with that. Let me know when you're ready to begin; I'll assign you a scribe if you like."
Twilight takes her leave, and limps slowly away into the grey distance, fading into the rain like a dream. You remain, standing by the mound of sodden earth and the stone pillar inset with a pink butterfly gem, mounted in gold.
You stretch up a shaky hand, and try to touch the gem. To your surprise, it comes loose readily and rests in your palm, the sudden weight making your whole arm sway. It feels warm, and its radiance sends a whisper, just a hint of peace and happiness over your heart. You wonder if she is still in there in some sense, or if much of what she was was somehow embodied in this element before she was even born.
Could an immortal element remember? Remembrance is a change, and that which changes cannot be eternal, can it?
You gaze at the polished stone of the monument, then drag the gem along its surface. The sharp point cuts easily into the stone, marring the smooth finish with your rough scratches.
You replace the gem, which leaps back into its socket, then step back to survey what you've written:
After a time, you turn and begin the slow, slow walk to your house.